HomeSubject SamplersThe Slave Trade

The Slave Trade

Even after the United States abolished the slave trade in 1808, enslaved people continued to enter the country semi-legally, and the horrors of the Triangle Trade continued off the African coast. AAS's records document not just American arguments regarding the slave trade, but memoirs of abolitionists and slave traders, and formerly enslaved people. The close commercial and moral connection between North America and the Caribbean is rarely clearer than when examining how both regions were wrapped up in the same world of the slave trade. 

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Set down by an American journalist, this volume comprises the memoirs of Captain Theodore Canot (whose real name was Theophile Conneau). As the title suggests, he spent twenty years directly involved in the African slave trade. The French-Italian captain reveals much of the true inner workings of the slave trade, from purchasing human beings from African shores to the subsequent resale of them in the Caribbean and South America. Canot expresses a "candid" opinion on the institution of slavery - that it was an African invention and that "one-sixth of Africa subjects the remaining five-sixths to servitude." As odious a worldview as this volume presents, it offers valuable insight into the function of the slave trade and the internal justifications of the individuals who supported it.

Another memoir, again set down by an American journalist, the recollections that compose this volume are those of a man who came to be called Pierre Toussaint, who was born a slave in St. Domingo. After growing up enslaved in the Caribbean, he emigrated to the United States, and eventually gained his freedom. Toussaints unique experiences with slavery and freedom in a variety of locations make this a rich text for studying what the slave trade meant for the generations after the trade was abolished.

Written by an Irish abolitionist, this open letter details the state of the illegal slave trade at the time of its writing, in 1839. The author accuses the American consul general to Cuba, Mr. N. P. Trist, of abetting the illegal slave trade by allowing slave ships to fly the American flag, and of aiding them in delivering their cargo to the United States. It provides an example of historical intersection between the politics of Britain, the United States, and the Caribbean, focused on the most divisive political question of the nineteenth century.

A direct response to R.R. Madden's letter to Channing, the author (a self-identified abolitionist, though evidently of a much more conservative bent than Madden) sets out to defend the reputation of Mr. N.P. Trist, US Consul General in Cuba. The author calls Madden, an Irish Abolitionist, both a "zealot and a hypocrite," and severely critiques the quality of his writing and his intelligence. It is interesting for the character of the author's critiques of Madden - in addition to point by point rebuttals of his arguments - on the divergence of his scholarship from the traditional mainstream, for example, his criticism of Herodotus and inability to read Greek.

Having already proved the slave trade to be inhuman and unjust in previous essays, the author here turns away from arguments against morality to establish that the slave trade is simply impolitic,that it is bad policy to pursue, because its abolition would turn the economic attention of Africa from enslavement to development. 

A fiery moral treatise on the harm caused by the slave trade and the treatment of enslaved people held in the Caribbean. In the authors own ambitious words, this work intended to show that it is destructive of the welfare of human society, and of the peace and prosperity of every country,as well as that it destroys the bonds of natural affection and interest . . . that it introduces idleness, discourages marriage, corrupts the youth, ruins and debauches morals, excites continual apprehension of dangers, and frequent alarms . . .